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Friday, June 14, 2024

Poll: What area should Manchester United prioritize this summer?

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Manchester United have their work cut out for them this summer. For United to get back to the summit of the Premier League a massive squad upheaval needs to be done, with several players departing Old Trafford and even more coming in.

That task is far easier said than done as United find themselves in a very poor financial position, partially from their own doing through years of bad signings – especially recently – and partially because of financial fair play laws.

Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial are set to leave the club this summer which will free up some of the wage bill, but freed up wages only goes so far in terms having to buy a new player and pay them wages. If United are going to buy this summer, they’re going to have to sell.

That itself will be a tall task. The Premier League has gotten serious about handing out punishments for breaches of their Profit & Sustainability laws which has cast a dark shadow over this summer’s transfer window. We already saw the January window be much quieter than usual and agents are expecting similar this summer.

Outside the Premier League it doesn’t look like Saudi Arabia will be spending money like they did a year ago, making it much more difficult to move someone like Casemiro along. Meanwhile Jadon Sancho has had a good loan spell at Borussia Dortmund but not he should be the eighth highest paid Bundesliga player good. There’s hope United can receive a significant fee for Mason Greenwood, but his numbers right now are a tad worse than Sancho’s 2022-23 numbers, in La Liga, if you wouldn’t have been buying Sancho off last year, would you be buying a slightly worse player with more baggage?

We all know that United need several pieces all over the pitch, but we have to operate under the assumption that United won’t be getting a windfall of incoming cash this summer. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this United team isn’t going to be rebuilt in a summer.

Therefore it’s not about addressing all of United’s needs, it’s about prioritizing which holes need to be filled first.

Striker

Rasmus Hojlund has scored 14 goals in all competitions for Manchester United this season which is ~about a reasonable expectation for him in his first season. He wasn’t signed for this season, he was signed for future seasons. However he’s probably played more minutes than he should have thanks to United having no depth at the position.

Anthony Martial is leaving the club so United will need to replace him. Considering all their wingers are the type of players who like to cut inside and shoot, they probably need someone in the same mold as Martial who can give them that space to do it.

The truth is that’s probably not enough. There’s no reason to write off Hojlund just yet – especially as his team doesn’t pass him the ball – but his lack of being able to generate his own shots is a red flag. United probably need a third striker to provide actual depth. Someone who could push Hojlund, or help Hojlund, or at the very least just eat minutes in the Europa (or Conference) League so players don’t burn out.

Midfield

Wait a second. We’ve seen United do this countless times already. They sign strikers and attackers who then don’t perform because for years and years and years they’ve neglected the midfield. It’s really hard for attackers to perform if you can’t get them the ball.

Two years ago United reacted to Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba departing by signing 30 year old Casemiro and 30 year old attacking midfielder who we’re just going to drop deeper Christian Eriksen. It was an incredibly short sighted decision that – at best – would probably need to be replaced two years later. Well guess what, it’s two years later and it desperately needs to be addressed.

Casemiro has been one of United’s worst players this season. I do think under a different manager who maybe puts in a structure that doesn’t ask him to do as much or cover as much ground could see the Brazilian get a minor resurgence but that’s a maybe and even with a minor resurgence he’s never getting back to his best days.

Christian Eriksen has only started 11 Premier League matches this season and has only played 326 minutes in all competitions in 2024 (58 percent of which have come in the last 10 days). Even at his best, which is around when he first arrived at Old Trafford, Eriksen was a player who tired after 60 minutes, and at no point was he a player who could really play in a midfield pivot.

United tried to get ahead of this last summer by signing… Mason Mount? Another attacking midfielder who was shoehorned in as a number eight. It was quickly abandoned because, well that’s not Mount’s position.

You just cannot go into next season with Scott McTominay and Kobbie Mainoo being the only two reliable midfielders you have.

Left back

Hold up. Have we really made it this far without addressing the fact that Manchester United have played 47 matches this season and have only had a proper left back for 15 of them?!? Luke Shaw may be one of the best left backs in Europe when fit but that “when fit” is starting to do a lot of heavy lifting.

Shaw’s only played 46.34 percent of the available Premier League since joining United a decade ago (he did almost lose his leg) and he’s never hit 2000 league minutes in consecutive seasons at any point of his career. You simply can’t rely on him to give you a full season anymore.

Tyrell Malacia had a solid debut campaign for United. He has some raw talent but there’s still a lot of development that needs to occur. Even in a perfect world at this point he’s still a backup and needing him for long stretches of time is not ideal. But it’s not a perfect world, he just missed an entire year with a knee injury. The type of injury where you never really know how/if a player is ever going to return from.

How could you possibly say United don’t need another left back immediately?

Centerback

Raphael Varane is leaving and there still seems to be a section of United fans who believe the number one player who must depart is Harry Maguire. If United were to sell him, they would need to bring in two centerbacks as replacements.

Selling a player who has been United’s best and, crucially, most available, centerback this season would be foolish. Selling someone who has been your best and most available centerback who also is a leader in the dressing room and has proven that he will have the right attitude, work hard, and stay ready even if he’s not a first choice player would be asinine.

Lisandro Martinez is going to need to prove he can play more than the European career high 23.5 league 90s he played in 2022-23. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof need to be replaced in the near future. But how much of that needs to happen this summer? Signing one younger centerback to replace the outgoing Varane plus having a one year older Willy Kambwala can help kick the can down the road a bit.

Right back

Diogo Dalot is probably going to be United’s player of the season but even then he still leaves a lot to be desired. He’s at his best in the middle third of the pitch as he still has lapses defensively and for the amount of times he gets involved in the attack – which is a lot because the attack practically runs through him – he doesn’t make it count nearly enough. One of the reasons United’s attack is so poor is that they run it through their right back and Dalot just isn’t good enough for that kind of responsibility.

A better right back would make things better if that was the route you continued to go down. I do also believe Dalot’s “versatility” hurts him a bit as he’s a good right back and not even close to a good left back – but since he’s considered “capable” of playing there he’s been deployed there too often to his and the team’s detriment.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka hasn’t been terrible but development on the ball just hasn’t happened for him. Making matters worse have been the string of big defensive lapses that have happened at the end of matches recently – partially caused by fatigue and partially caused by playing at left back.

As has been the case for a few years, both are capable of stepping into the team and doing a job, but neither are really that great. Right back isn’t a position of weakness for United. But it’s not a position of strength either. United need one of these guys to be the backup and someone better than both to be the starter.

Attackers

Right now United have a center forward who plays on the shoulder of the back line and make runs into the box. At the same time, all of their wingers are players who aren’t known for picking out a pass or playing a through ball. They’re guys that want to cut inside and get to the middle. The result is all too often the wingers and striker end up converging on the same space, making it very easy to defend.

If Rasmus Hojlund is going to be your striker, they need at least one winger who can provide both creativity and space for Hojlund. Might be a bit difficult to sign someone there, so they’re going to need to figure out if Amad Diallo could actually offer them something in that regard. Or they’re going to have to figure out how to get Mason Mount or Jadon Sancho involved in that area.

You can play with a traditional ‘fox in the box’ number 9 as your striker and you can play with two cut inside and shoot wingers. You can’t play with the three of them at the same time.

United need to address all these areas over the coming years if they’re going to get back to being title contenders. But what should they prioritize this summer?

Poll

What position should Manchester United prioritize this summer?

  • 6%

  • 2%

  • 73%

    Central Midfield

    (137 votes)

  • 13%

  • 3%

  • 0%

186 votes total Vote Now

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